AP-NORC poll: Support for racial injustice protests declines

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Protesters react to gunfire, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. A police officer was shot in the evening. A grand jury has indicted one officer on criminal charges six months after Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in Kentucky. The jury presented its decision against fired officer Brett Hankison Wednesday to a judge in Louisville, where the shooting took place. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW YORK – As the decision in Kentucky to bring charges against only one of three police officers involved in the raid that killed Breonna Taylor sparks renewed protests nationwide, a new survey finds support has fallen for demonstrations against systemic racism.

The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 44% of Americans disapprove of protests in response to police violence against Black Americans, while 39% approve. In June, 54% approved. The new survey was conducted Sept. 11-14, before Wednesday's announcement that a lone Louisville police officer would be charged in the Taylor case, but not for her actual death.

Overnight, demonstrators in cities from New York to Las Vegas marched through streets and chanted Taylor’s name. Two officers were wounded by gunfire at protests in Louisville, where authorities made close to 100 arrests on charges of damaging businesses, refusing to disperse after curfew and unlawful assembly.

The poll finds the percentage of Americans who believe police violence unequally targets Black Americans and that greater consequences for police brutality are necessary have also fallen from June, when an AP-NORC survey found sweeping changes in how Americans view these issues.

The June survey followed the late May killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which renewed focus on Taylor's earlier death, in March. On Wednesday, a Kentucky grand jury declined to charge any officers for their role in Taylor's killing; she was shot multiple times after officers entered her home using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said an investigation of the case yielded evidence that officers announced themselves before entering.

It was Floyd's death in Minneapolis — captured on video by witnesses — that sparked several months of nationwide unrest in which hundreds of thousands of Americans protested against systemic racism and police brutality, while others, including President Donald Trump, expressed solidarity with police and law enforcement officers.

The new poll finds the recent shift in opinion is pronounced among white Americans and Republicans, whose views on police violence and racial inequity in policing look closer to the way they did in 2015 after the high-profile police killings of several Black men. Just 35% of white Americans approve of the protests now, while 50% disapprove. In June, 53% approved, while 34% disapproved.

Among Latinos, 31% approve, compared with 44% in June; 63% of Black Americans support the protests, down from 81%, with more now saying they neither approve nor disapprove.